- Hable con ella
- Talk to her (2002)Hable con ella was the film for which Pedro Almodóvar won an Academy Award for best original script (he had been nominated as best director, and won in that category at the European Film Awards). There are several things worth noting in this triumph. First, it was a category that, for obvious reasons, was traditionally dominated by English-speaking professionals, and the award was given by people who, presumably, had missed out on Almodóvar's polished dialogue, witty turns of phrase, and his already legendary skill for verbal characterization. This says a lot about the Academy's appreciation of one aspect Spanish critics have only grudgingly accepted: the director's command of plot construction and dramatic structure, displayed at its best in this film. Second, although Almodóvar had in the past assimilated Hollywood genres (most remarkably melodrama and Hitchcockian thriller, as well as sophisticated comedy reminiscent of the 1950s), this film was among his most blatantly "European" efforts. Third, to those who claimed Almodóvar was liked abroad because he represented a cheap or distorted version of "Spanishness" based on color, frivolity, and other "feminine" aspects, it must have come as a shock to realize that recognition came for a restrained, deeply emotional, and essentially earnest (i.e., not camp) male melodrama.Finally, recognition abroad was not replicated domestically. That year, the largest share of the Goya awards went to Fernando León de Aranoa's worthy, gritty drama Los lunes al sol, and Hable con ella came away with only one prize for Alberto Iglesias in the best score category, something that happened with other Spanish awards as well, eliciting so many questions that Marisa Paredes, then president of the Academia de Ciencias y Artes Cinematográficas awarding the Goyas, had to explain that traditionally Spanish professionals have shown a preference for social drama. And evidently, although some of the themes in the film (for instance rape) could be dealt with following the codes of the issue-centered film, Almodóvar boldly refused to judge the crime and preferred to look at the emotions involved on both sides.The film focuses on the relationship between two men, Benigno and Marco (Javier Cámara and Darío Grandinetti), and also between each and a woman he is obsessed with (Leonor Watling and Rosario Flores, respectively), and who are in both cases in a coma. The script shifts back and forth between the moment in which their relationships consolidated, to end by focusing on the growing sense of solidarity between the men. Marco is the typical straight, virile man of action, sentimental but unable to articulate his emotions; whereas Benigno, who has lived a long time with his mother and who could be taken for gay at first sight is the one who will eventually commit the crime that constitute the central event of the film. In contrast to Marco, Benigno knows how to talk to women.This is one of Almodóvar's starkest films. His strong visual sense is there, and he is helped with precise cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe and the award-winning score by Iglesias, but rather than the bright colors audiences associate him with, the palette here consists mostly of earthy reds and browns. The director explained that, for some unexplained reason, he could not relax with men's stories as much as with women's: thinking about the male psyche is, for him, always problematic and humorless. It was also polemical in its treatment of rape. Then again, nowhere is Almodóvar's nonjudgmental stance more prominent than in this film.
Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. Alberto Mira. 2010.